The Y Not Festival takes place every summer in the lush green surrounds of the Peak District, a 20-minute drive from Cromford in Derbyshire. This year’s festival was held over the weekend of August 3-5.
Now in its 7th year, Y Not is a festival whose annual growth is perpetual. Like a fine wine, it matures with age, and Y Not is now indelibly marked on the summer festival calendar; it’s no longer the tiny gathering in the Peak District that it once was.
With that said, it’s no giant, either. Indeed its motto of ”Small. Fresh. Loud’ is pretty accurate.
The festival now has four stages – The Big Gin or main stage, The Quarry tent or second stage, The Giant Squid tent which houses some seriously noisy rock a la the brilliantly tumultuous Turbowolf, Harkeyes, Rolo Tomassi and Lower Than Atlantis, and The Allotment, which showcases unheard and emerging talent such as Nottingham’s The Barnum Meserve, whose anthemic bluster could be heard on Saturday afternoon.
There’s also a comedy tent, two well-stocked bars, a cocktail bar, an American-style ‘drive-in’ cinema tent with actual cars placed in front of actual films, and families are kept happy with the inclusion of an activity tent that includes everything from face painting to juggling lessons.
Throw in the dodgems and a Shisha tent, and – cliché alert – there’s pretty much something for everything.
As well as a strong musical line-up, the festival also doubles up as something of a beer & cider festival, offering a wide-range of local real ales, ciders and perrys, ranging from strong, to weapons-grade strong.
So far, all boxes are ticked. But this is the Peak District – a strange meteorological microcosm which shuns weather forecasts and plays havoc with clothing plans.
Thursday’s rain meant that by Friday afternoon, the opening day of the festival, hardly a shard of grass remained on the once lush fields. Where there was once greenery, now lay only thick, gloopy inescapable mud.
When it rained it became a slippery plateau, and when the sun began to slowly drain away its moisture, the squelchy, sticky slurry made walking a real challenge.
But although the whole site was a quagmire for the entire three days, no one was complaining. Because besides the brown sticky stuff, there was also some pretty fine music to be enjoyed.
If there is to be one critical mud pie to be lobbed at this year’s Y Not, it’s aimed at two of the three headline acts. While We Are Scientists’ geek-rock provided the perfect climax on Sunday evening with an accomplished set of indie and impromptu comedy, The View (Friday) and The Wombats (Saturday) didn’t quite have that oomph needed to bring a day’s music to a resounding close.
Of course, both bands played the hits, as expected. But, with the sound noticeably reduced for their 10:15pm slots (seriously who are they annoying? Some cows and the Countryside Alliance?), the atmosphere seemed a little stale.
On Friday, The Pigeon Detectives would’ve been a better choice to close the day, with a triumphant and euphoric display of vigorous guitar-led indie-rock and audience participation. Hits like ‘Emergency’, ‘Romantic Type’, ‘Take Her Back’ and ‘I’m Not Sorry’ are exactly the type of energetic anthems needed to end the opening day.
Also impressive was local boy done good Jake Bugg, whose performance on the main stage was one of sheer class and maturity. His Bob Dylan-meets-Alex Turner shtick struck a chord with the sizeable crowd. He ended with Lightning Bolt, and like one certain Usain, he’s quickly running into the headlines.
On Saturday, British Sea Power and Reverend and The Makers were the main draws, but while the former eschewed their usual perplexing onstage array of boxing bears, foliage, plastic herons and air raid sirens, and the latter proved that frontman John McClure’s rhetorical nonsense holds no bounds, the day was owned by King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, whose jazz-funk fusion in the Quarry tent provided some much-needed variety and provoked bouts of jiving and swinging. Not easy on a constantly shifting surface.
Close to stealing the show were Summer Camp, however, who juxtaposed their electro-indie with a backdrop of 80s movies – their cinematic oeuvre knitting together perfectly with the movies.
Sunday never quite lived up to the previous days’ verve. The wet weather didn’t help, and a lacklustre performance from the usually excellent and witty Future of the Left was disappointing. They said little between songs, choosing not to deliver their comedic quips – perhaps as a ploy to cram more songs into their set. But this omission, and the absence of a keyboard, meaning some of their best songs (‘Manchasm’ for example) were missing, left the mood a little flat.
Better were Sheffield’s Slow Club, whose cute melodrama and stunning melodic cover of Pulp’s ‘Disco 2000’ was a wondrous surprise.
Sunderland’s exuberant Frankie & The Heartstrings were followed by the permanently impressive and noisy Subways before We Are Scientists ended the festival with a stunning set.
As the old expression proclaims, ‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’ – a perfect idiom for Y Not 2012.